Offsetting up for failure: Northern Territory Climate Offsets Policy

With the impacts of climate change already being felt in the Northern Territory, new research shows the Northern Territory Government’s draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Offsets Policy should be abandoned or at least heavily revised.

A submission from The Australia Institute’s Climate & Energy Program shows that the proposed offset system would undermine existing NT Government policy and appears aimed at facilitating fracking in the NT rather than reducing emissions.

Key points:

  • The NT Draft Offset Policy ignores recommendations by the NT Fracking Inquiry, with no mention of how the NT Government would ensure zero net increase in emissions from fracking development.
  • A new class of ‘indirect offset’ is proposed in the Draft Offset Policy, where R&D funding would be used to compensate for climate pollution. This would have no integrity and is not used anywhere else in the world.
  • Indirect offsets would undermine real offset markets and expose the NT to legal challenges.
  • The draft offset policy should set out explicitly that all life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from fossil gas projects are to be directly offset at or before the time greenhouse gases are emitted.

“The draft emissions offset policy is clearly designed to facilitate fracking in the Northern Territory,” said Rod Campbell, Research Director at The Australia Institute.

“The NT Government has committed to make gas companies offset all greenhouse gas emissions, but this draft policy waters that commitment down dramatically.

“The Fracking Inquiry’s recommendation not to allow any net increase in emissions has now become merely an option to recommend offsets, in consultation with gas companies.

“Worse still, the NT Government is proposing world-first ‘indirect emissions offsets’, where polluters pay for research into emissions reduction rather than actually reducing emissions.

“Polluters need only have ‘reasonable confidence’ that the research would lead to emissions reduction. This approach has no integrity and is not supported anywhere else in the world.

“Shonky indirect offsets would undermine more legitimate offset markets worth millions, so the NT Government can expect legal challenges if they proceed with this policy.

“The draft policy should be abandoned. Not only does it fail the environment, but it opens the NT Government up to ridicule for the lengths it will go to accommodate the gas industry.”

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